Who Run the World?

Back in 1969, women were not running the world. Sorry, Bey. They weren’t running Newsweek either. In fact, they were so far removed from running the newsmagazine that these talented individuals were relegated — and forced to reside inevitably — in research … until they got pissed off and did something about it. The Good Girls Revolt gives us the account of how 46 women at Newsweek said enough is enough and set a huge precedent.

Sometimes the content speaks for itself, and obviously The Good Girls Revolt spoke to me on a professional and personal level. Lynn Povich is a storyteller though, and she made me feel like I was right there alongside these women as they fought for what they deserved. Combining her writing abilities with a story that needed to be told made for the most lit book I’ve read in a long time.

The Good Girls Revolt

Newsweek was at the forefront of the Civil Rights movement back in the 1960s as it publicized injustices occurring in the U.S., among them the cruelty that was racial segregation. While its editors and writers proclaimed their liberalism and fought for equality, it left out one important group, without which the magazine would have floundered: women. Despite having the same educations and qualifications as their male counterparts, women were hired as researchers, and they were never able to move up.

Realizing the illegalities of their situation, a few women started organizing, including Povich. Over time, 46 women secretly organized, researched, and hired a lawyer to take back their careers. They got a lucky break when they learned the magazine would be publishing a cover story about the “new woman,” who was rebelling against traditional norms. The women planned for the announcement of their lawsuit to coincide with the story. On March 16, 1970, “Women in Revolt” was published just as the women gathered for a news conference to tell the world they were suing their own publication.

Povich goes on to detail the many steps taken to improve the situation, the backlash from the male editors and writers, the long road to fulfilling equality at Newsweek, and the long road still ahead of us. As I note above, this book can owe a lot of its power to the real-life story that took place. This is a tale of feminism and fighting together, and my connection to it was instantaneous.

“Now we were becoming mad women, discovering and confronting our own ambitions, a quality praised in men but stigmatized — still — in women.” The Good Girls Revolt

As a feminist, writer, editor, and former journalist, I could have been any one of these women. I remember sitting in a magazine editing course in college and learning about the pay gap in magazines. I was appalled when, looking around, the majority of my class (aka future mag professionals) was female, yet we would be compensated less than men.

That same year the J School held a writing conference with major magazine writers — some of the best in the country — who had once attended Mizzou. Sure enough, five out of five were male. That sparked conversations in the J School about how all the top writers at major ‘zines were men and how women didn’t have the same opportunities to write longform journalism that men did. (We were reminded, however, that most women’s magazines included more service pieces that didn’t lend themselves to the longform style.) This influenced a new publication: The Riveter started by two MU grads just a year older than I was that celebrated great female writers.

“But the barricades were falling, and women were rushing in.” The Good Girls Revolt

These experiences came back to me as I read The Good Girls Revolt, and just like during my revelations in undergrad, it fired me up. Although we’ve come a long way since the research department, the injustices still exist. I’ve been promoted and been given a lot of great opportunities in my career — special thanks to my female boss — but I still face sexism every day in the form of inappropriate, lewd, and condescending comments. I also still see way more men leading my company than women, though I must add that the ladies in management and near the top are crushing it.

Therefore, this book was bound to be lit. The story had a huge impact all on its own. Povich deserves a lot of credit though. The power in her writing — crafted from years at Newsweek and from becoming the publication’s first senior editor — lifts the book. A great story deserves great writing, and Povich delivers. Without her effective storytelling techniques, this book could have easily fizzled. Furthermore, her passion shines through. You’re not just watching like a fly on the wall; you’re sitting in the room and watching history be made. The most significant nonfiction books are those that read like a novel, and that’s exactly what you get from The Good Girls Revolt.

“In telling our history, I hope our daughters come to understand that sisterhood is powerful, that good girls can revolt, and that change can — and must — happen.” — The Good Girls Revolt

Don’t forget to check out season one of Good Girls Revolt on Amazon.

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